At salt rock

The flamethrower is positive proof that sometime, somewhere, someone said, “You know, I’d really like to set those people over there on fire, I’m just not close enough to get the job done.”

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Voluntarily becoming homeless

As my remedial “Backpacking 101” class approaches, I’m struck by the audacity of the desire to temporarily volunteer to be homeless for the weekend. Essentially that is what camping and backpacking are. For a few days (or six months if you thru-hike the AT) you cast off the modern conveniences of life, and instead take your entire world with you into some place where you wind up having to poop in a hole in the ground. What kind of craziness causes this? I’m not sure, but it’s fun. The nice thing is at the end of it all, provided your significant other hasn’t changed the locks, you can get back into the real world and take a shower. Of all the modern conveniences of life, mobile phones, the internet, microwaves… after a camping trip the hot shower seems like the best invention ever.

So, Here are some of the things I will be taking with me on my temporarily-homeless experiment. The Blue Beast is ready to go. I packed my food last week, does that show how much I’m looking forward to it? Most of these things are packed into their associated labeled bags, so I can pull out a bag and be ready to go for water filtration, sudden rainstorm, an emergency, etc.

Water Stuff: Camelbak reservoir, water filter, coffee filters for turgid water, and my dirty water bag for the filter. Also a little hand/pocket sized water bottle for the night hike.
Food: The Cat-Food-Can stove, windscreen cone, titanium spork, fuel bottle, squishy mug, titanium cup, plastic storage cup for everything, and lid.
Shelter: Hennessy Hammock Tent, Tree Straps, Rainfly tarp, Underquilt, sleeping bag, pillow and attachment ropes with two carabiners.
Hygiene bag: Toothbrush, baking soda, Poo Trowel, TP, Hand sanitizer, soap, wet wipes.
Bugs, Drugs and F*ckups: First aid kit, benadryl, ibuprofen, tums, matches, bug spray, eye drops, floss, fire cubes, space blanket.
Misc Stuff: Trekking poles, GPS, Knife, Head Lamp, Headphones for night, ear plugs,
Spare clothes: Socks, rain jacket, night shirt, hat and rain pants.
Of course, after a hike, it is always nice to change into a clean shirt and socks, so I’m bringing those to leave in the car.

It’s amazing to me how “clean” backpacking is. While people may get dirty, nasty and smelly, typically the whole experience is clean. In other words, there’s no clutter left about. Unless you have “staff” in your house picking up after you and dusting and cooking, everyone has some clutter around. Bits of school projects waiting completion on the counter, pots in the drain, that jumbled bookshelf…
In backpacking there’s none of that. You cook using your three little pots, then you put it up. You sleep, then pack away your bed stuff. Nothing is left out for later. When you walk away, that’s it. It’s all gone. No one should ever know you were there.

Like I said, clean. And simple too.

I’m glad to see Fall finally here. With cooler weather comes long sleeved shirts, jeans, comfy coats, fires in the fireplace, and our annual Angie’s Apple Adventure, scheduled for next month. Sky Top Orchards is a great place to go apple-picking, but that’s another post entirely.

Living life in the Amazon (dot com).

Wal-Mart announced recently they are going to stop carrying the Kindle, once current supplies sell out. When Asked why, they gave a lot of flowery corporate language, basically saying “We’re not going to tell you”.

At least Target was honest when they dropped the Kindle, saying in no uncertain terms, “We’re tired of Amazon encouraging people to try stuff in our store, and buy from them online.” Way to go Target. Be honest and up front with your answers.

As the season of greed and torment approaches (also known as X-Ma$$, The Holidays, or ‘that time of year’), I recalled Amazon’s last stunt – promising 5% off if you checked a price in a real store and then bought it online.

Brilliant.

It’s capitalism, folks. If you can’t beat the prices and give a better deal, you lose. That’s what this country was founded on. Kudos to Amazon for trying hard to earn our money. It makes me wonder how much stuff can really be bought online? What if you tried to live your whole life online? Avoid buying everything in stores, except maybe gas and ice cream? How far could you go to never buy in a store again?

It sounds like a challenge, and one I might be willing to take on next year. Don’t call it a resolution… I don’t make those, since 2000 when my resolution was to “never make another new year’s resolution”. It’s probably the longest unbroken New Year’s resolution in history.

But call it a pledge, a plan… I’m going to have to give it some serious thought, maybe make lists of the stuff I buy. Other than groceries and gas, what can I avoid buying from stores? What kinds of “stuff” do I get, anyway. Aside from clothes, I really DON’T shop much in stores. Something to look into, anyway. 2013, the year online?

Backpacking 10….2?

So I attended the fall “Backpacking 101” class last weekend. It was quite informative as always. It was interesting looking at the crowd of people gathered around the room. As an alumnus, I had some personal experiences to relate. I was told to keep the “horror stories” at a minimum, however, before the trip.

Every BP101 graduate has their Panthertown horror story. Some more than others. My only one was that I half froze to death. Another alumnus related her tale of being scared by a fox “or something” while trying to take her first poop in the woods. I say that works fine…If I’m squatting over a hole in the ground, scaring the crap out of me at that point should only help speed things along.

The crowd consisted of a wide variety of people, evidently the norm for this sort of thing:

The Car-Camping Convert. No longer content to stay within eyesight of the car, the car camper must learn to leave behind all that car camping entails, especially the tendency to take as much of the house as you can into the woods with you, including the Coleman folding kitchen, the cast iron pots, the generator, and the blender for making margaritas while watching the game on TV.

The Former Hiker. Their REI membership long expired, the last piece of equipment they bought is older than some college seniors. For whatever reason they left hiking and are returning to it.

The Semi-Clueless Noobs. This was my category last April. Semi-Clueless Noobs often have spent a bit on stuff that will work, but may be too big, too complex, and usually too heavy. They may have hiker friends or have ingested many books and megabytes of internet data. Often they think they know enough to go on a solo backpacking trip, but figured the class would be a good start. Semi-Clueless Noobs are often shocked at revelations of what backpacking really consists of.

Hiker-Virgins. These people have nothing. They thought hiking sounded fun for whatever reason, and signed up for the class. Not a bad way to go, but often leads to a last minute gear-scramble and a serious hit on the credit cards after purchases at outfitters. Their next Visa statement may read something like “Return everything you just bought, except for the hooker shoes, you’re going to need those”. The deleterious effect of a sudden hiking urge may be lessened by borrowing gear.

*Borrowing most of your gear puts Hiker Virgins and Semi-Clueless Noobs into the right frame of mind to become an “ultralight hiker” (An ultralight hiker is sometimes defined as someone who brags about carrying next to nothing, and consequently has to borrow from everyone else in the group).

The Alumni. The Alumni laugh at their stories, generally leaving the rest of the crowd to wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into. They try to give hints without scaring off the Hiker Virgins and Semi-Clueless Noobs. Thankfully the Returning Hiker and Car Camper Convert are often immune to Alumni stories, as they may have quite a few of their own stories even more wild and frightening than those of The Alumni.

So, I’m counting down the days until I can trudge around in the woods. I spent my lunch hour today picking out my food from my hiking storage drawer. I have been experimenting with food, and have discovered a few things:

“Fruit Buddies” from Wal-mart are pretty good. They satisfy fruit cravings without the hassles of peeling and such. They are little fruit chewy things, made from fruit, not some fake fruit-flavored stuff.

You CAN make microwavable Spongebob macaroni and cheese in the woods with some boiling water and a freezer bag. It tastes as good as it does when you microwave it. That’s not saying much… but at the end of a day when it is cold and you’re hungry, it will be pretty good.

Freeze dried corn “snacks” from target will rehydrate pretty well in the same freezer bag system.

Tea does NOT have to be iced. Prepared well, HOT tea is really good, and when you have been drinking stream water all day, a bit of hot tea with your corn, Spongebob macaroni, and fruit makes dinner that much better. I may get my Southerner Card pulled for saying hot tea is good, I really apologize. But I still make it sweet, even hot. Tea is supposed to be sweet.

You CAN brown a roll in the forest, given the proper use of your stove and a bit of wire. Couple the roll with a bit of “vegetable spread” from a restaurant mining trip, and you have a treat that will make the other hikers seriously consider using your bear bag rope in a manner you did not intend. The same roll-warming technique could technically work on pre-cooked cinnamon rolls, but one must not tempt fate that far back in the woods.